Switching visas – some top tips banner


Switching visas – some top tips

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Obtaining your UK visa to come and live, study or work in the UK, with or without the input of a Legal 500 Immigration solicitor, is a real achievement – but what happens if your situation changes? There are many situations when you may need to consider switching visas, so in this blog, our London immigration solicitors look at some of those circumstances, and offer some top tips for switching visas, whatever your circumstances.

Why might I need to switch visa?

As your UK Immigration lawyer will have explained when you first applied for your UK visa, you will be granted permission to come to the UK for a fairly specific reason, and because you have been able to demonstrate that you meet certain criteria related to those reasons. The application process can be long, complex and expensive, so you may have no intention of going through it again, but if your situation changes, you may need a new visa.

Switching visas on marriage

If you are lawfully in the UK on another type of visa and have married a British citizen, someone who has settled status in the UK or has refugee status or humanitarian protection, you may consider switching visas to a family visa. If successful, you will get an initial permission to be in the UK for 2.5 years, which you can then apply to extend. You will then be able to apply for settlement in the UK once you have been here for 5 years on a family visa as a spouse. This could be particularly appropriate if your original visa is not a route to settlement in the UK – for example a Tier 2 visa.

Switching visas on divorce

One of the common situations when you may need to consider switching visas is if your UK visa is dependant on your marriage to a British citizen, and that marriage comes to an end. The reason you were granted your visa is no longer relevant, so if you wish to remain in the UK, you will need to switch to a different visa. We discussed this recently in another blog on divorce and immigration. In some cases, you may need to consider switching to a Tier 2 visa if your employer has a Sponsorship Licence and this is appropriate. In this case, the Tier 2 visa isn’t a route to settlement in itself, so depending on how long you have already been in the UK and other circumstances, a UK Immigration lawyer will usually advise on alternative routes to stay more permanently in the UK , including Indefinite Leave to Remain, applying to stay on the basis that you have 10 years’ residence in the UK, or because you are the parent of a British child.

Switching visas at the end of a period of study

Many international students choose the excellent academic institutions in the UK to further their studies – but the Tier 4 study visa does not give many options to remain in the UK on completion of studies. At this stage, the individual may be considering setting up their own business or looking for Employment in the UK. This will require an application to switch visas to the appropriate visa for the new path the individual is planning to take. This could be an application for a Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa for those with money to invest in a UK business visa, or as a Tier 2 (general) worker, for example.

Switching visas – top tips

One of the key things to establish if you are in a position where you need to switch visa is whether your existing UK visa allows you to switch into the visa you are intending to apply for. As any of the best Immigration solicitors will explain, it is not as simple as choosing your next visa – it will depend on what basis you are already in the UK.

Having established that you can switch from your current UK visa to the new visa which would be more appropriate to your situation, you must take care to work out whether you are eligible to switch to the new visa. As your experience applying for your original visa will have demonstrated, the UK Immigration rules are complex and each visa has its own set of rules and requirements to satisfy. In many cases, it is advisable to talk to experienced Immigration solicitors in London in order to make sure your application to switch visa has the best chance of success.

OTS Solicitors are recommended in the Legal 500 for Immigration matters. Our top London Immigration lawyers and case workers are experienced in all aspects of Immigration law, and in applications to switch visas from one type of UK visa to another. To discuss your situation in detail (and in confidence) with one of our top Immigration lawyers, call us today on 0203 959 9123.

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